All's well with offense ... really

PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger announced he'll contribute to the New Orleans relief effort by paying $50 for every passing yard and $250 for every touchdown.

In other words, Roethlisberger plans to contribute about as much as the average sports writer.

At least that's the way the Steelers produced this preseason. They didn't score a touchdown in 18 possessions and in four games Roethlisberger passed for a total of 145 yards. That would've come to a contribution of just over $1,800 per game.

So, perhaps Roethlisberger might give a bit more than a sportswriter, but he's convinced he'll pay big this Sunday. He believes the offense will show great improvement when the Steelers open the season at Heinz Field against the Tennessee Titans.

"We've been working a lot on our passing game," Roethlisberger said. "We went kind of back to square one, the receivers and quarterbacks, and really worked on getting our depth and the quarterbacks getting their drops and throwing more timing, looking off the safeties. So we put an extra emphasis on the passing game and hopefully it'll pay off this Sunday."

Back to square one? It sounds interesting.

"Going back to square one is basically just going back to the details," said wide receiver Cedrick Wilson.

Was there a meeting? Did everyone stay after practice?

"Oh, no," Wilson said. "The coaches really haven't been that hard on the passing game. I think they feel like we're going to get it done. I don't think it's a worry at all. Now, come the Tennessee game, if we're not intact, then it's a problem."

So, what's Roethlisberger talking about?

"Getting back to square one, to me, is about just taking your time, being patient, not trying to make things happen, just letting them happen," Wilson said. "A lot of times, you get in the game and you lose everything you've been taught because you want to make these plays so bad. But you've just got to let the plays come, and they'll come. We know that."

They haven't yet for Wilson. After a sensational first two weeks of practice, he's virtually disappeared. In four preseason games, the Steelers' top free-agent acquisition caught four passes for 42 yards, and he was the leader of the first-team wideouts.

Antwaan Randle El caught three passes for 30 yards and Hines Ward caught three passes for 19 yards.

"Well, stats don't really say anything," Wilson said. "Look at Hines Ward's stats in the preseason. Look at Randle El's stats in the preseason."

Exactly. That explains the city of Pittsburgh's concern.

"You really can't be worried about that," Wilson said. "Number one, we want to establish the run first, and I think everybody knows that. You're not going to win football games throwing the ball every down. Again, if we have problems against Tennessee then it's a problem."

Wilson said he's not frustrated by his meager statistics this summer. And, he said, the fact he had to learn all three positions this summer did not hurt him.

"If you get a total concept of the offense you can play better," he said. "Me moving to Z (flanker) the first couple weeks of camp, everybody said ‘That's going to hurt you and you're not going to start.' But it helped me. It helped me learn both sides of the football; it helped me know when I'm on this side what's going on over there so I can affect things and help the other guy.

"Now, the run game is where it gets difficult, particularly for the Z. He's a huge part of this running game and that's the position that Hines likes. That's where it gets difficult."

Is anyone concerned about a quarterback who posted a preseason passer rating of 32.8? Is anyone concerned about a trio of wide receivers who combined for 10 receptions in four games?

Of course, the coach of the Titans isn't.

"We all have to take a step back when you're evaluating offenses in the preseason," said Jeff Fisher. "Offensive coaches have to plan for the start of the season. They're not going to do specific things. As our offensive staff looks at what we've done, it holds things back. I'm sure that's been the case with the Steeler offense. You can go back and look at some games last year and not recognize the two offenses.

"In defense of the lack of production, if you will, on offense for the Steelers, it's a matter of them holding things back, not doing things, not game-planning, just going out and staying basic and executing. When you spend an entire week dedicated to a game plan attacking an opponent, you're going to have a lot more success."

The city of New Orleans would appreciate that. So would the city of Pittsburgh.

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